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No Monkey Business: How Bridge Marina Uses Surveys to Enhance CSI

Monday, April 25, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jay Corn
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Tuesday mornings bring an extra buzz to Bridge Marina in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. Finding out what people really think of you can have that sort of effect.

Distributing post-sale surveys to their customers has been a policy at Bridge Marina for the last decade, and in recent years have been completed digitally via Survey Monkey. Participation rates are typically well north of 50 percent, and Bridge Marina owners Becca and Ray Fernandez say the dividends have been well worth the moderate investments of time and planning.

“It’s a simple process, but something that is so important to us,” Becca said. “We post the results in our employee-only area so everyone can see them, and it helps us constantly improve our business. It boosts staff morale and helps us maintain the level of customer satisfaction we expect.”

Three Steps to Launching a Survey Program

  1. Decide what department/customer types to target, develop a short survey with relevant questions (numerical ratings work well) and determine a realistic distribution frequency.
  2. Craft a process map to guide staff on how surveys should be sent to customers. Think about text, email, traditional postal and web channels.
  3. Collect and compile data to share with staff. Develop a system to follow up with customers not returning surveys and determine who will address negative feedback.

Gathering honest customer feedback represents a key component of the Marine Industry Certified Dealership Program, which Bridge Marina has completed.

“I wasn’t aware how in-depth our customer satisfaction survey process was until we began the Certification process last fall,” Ray said. “I was concerned we wouldn’t be able to calculate our CSI scores we needed for Five Star Certification, but after looking at what we’d be doing and what the results were I saw how big of a lift it really was.”

The goal at Bridge Marina is to put a survey in the hands of every customer making a purchase — whether it be a new boat, service product or rental. How surveys are crafted, distributed, collected, analyzed and shared has all been mapped by Becca and Ray, and the process has become second nature to their team. 

“We have a whole process mapped out here at the marina detailing how we collect email addresses, make sure we have all the customer’s information and get a survey out to them as soon as possible while the experience is still fresh in their mind,” Becca said. “Usually within a few days.”

Becca crafts the questions contained in a typical survey herself and says they are designed to both be completed quickly and provide focused insight into an individual customer’s buying experience. Most ask for ratings and rarely stretch past 10 questions. While she says results are overwhelmingly positive, approximately 95 percent, reading the occasional negative comment can have an equally important impact.

“Of course we want to know how we knocked their socks off, but we also want to know how we can improve and what we can do to make their experience better,” Becca said. “When we do happen to get a survey that’s not so great, and it does happen from time to time, it gives us a great opportunity to follow up with that customer and find out what happened. We can see if we need to change a process on our end to keep that unfortunate situation, whatever it may be, from happening in the future.”

Wait times, late parts or sluggish responses are among the most common complaints and are quickly addressed.

Bridge Marina has set up different surveys within Survey Monkey customized for each department of the dealership. Interestingly, Bridge Marina’s boat club customers are typically the most active participants. Slip owners aren’t far behind.

Follow-up contacts are made with customers electing to not complete a survey, and some gentle prodding by the Bridge Marina team usually are enough to coax a response.

Survey results are shared with the staff weekly, and accolades are given to team members called out by name in responses — which Becca and Ray say happens quite frequently. Positive comments are posted on a wall inside the dealership, and individuals are rewarded with $20 for being mentioned in a positive review.

“We filled up the entire wall last year,” Ray said. “It’s a great way to highlight what we are doing well. I’d say it costs us about three or four man hours — or, more appropriately, women hours — per week, which for us is well worth the return. 

So how can other marine retailers throughout North America launch a survey system like the one at Bridge Marina? Ray has some simple advice. 

“When we started this a decade ago we did it twice a year with our slip customers,” Becca said. “We’ve progressed, obviously, and now are really into it. Start small, otherwise it will get overwhelming and you won’t be able to maintain it. If we tried to bite off what we’re doing today in one shot, it would be too overwhelming.”

Ray added that having the entire staff supporting the initiative has also been a key cog in Bridge Marina’s surveying success.

“You have to have an orientation with your team and a system in place,” he said. “Develop a timeline of how often you want to survey and decide on who, exactly, will be responsible for execution. I think the results will be enough to keep things going. Once you get a result back you start to say, ‘wow, I want to do this more. I feel good about my team and feel good about what we’re doing.’"